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'Just a country boy from Glarryford': Marcus Rea poured his all into Ulster debut

The 21-year-old was the surprise hero of Ulster’s win over Leinster.

Rea powers towards the Leinster try-line.
Rea powers towards the Leinster try-line.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

WITH MORE AND more players moving with less friction or hurdles between provinces, it has gotten easier to trust in the professionalism of players to quickly re-align their allegiances.

For professional rugby players, there’s nothing quite as good for business as winning matches, whatever the colour of the jersey or the marking on your crest.

They won’t shirk a task or ease off the pedal. And yet, while nobody could doubt the commitment of imports to a province, watching Marcus Rea on and off the field on Saturday embossed the notion that there is nothing to match the meaning a homegrown talent will attach to a cap for his native province.

While most of us viewed Ulster v Leinster as a dead rubber, for 21-year-old Marcus Rea, it meant the world. And at numerous points during his post-game media duties as man of the match, he visibly choked back waves of emotion as he pondered the path he and older brother Matthew had taken to that field.

“There was a stage in Matthew’s career when maybe he didn’t know if he was going to make it,” said the younger Rea after his powerful 65-minute debut off the bench against Leinster.

Marcus Rea with brother Matty Rea Matthew and Marcus Rea (right) after the win over Leinster. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“He was 24 when he got his first cap, he came through the club set-up with Ballymena, played well there and got a break to get into the sub-Academy. I think even then I said to him, ‘look, we’re going to do this together’.

Now that we have, hopefully there’s many more games to come.”

Marcus’ try with 20 minutes remaining, one of 18 carries (and 19 tackles) he made on the day, made all the difference for the northern province and will do his prospects of adding to his caps before the season is out no harm at all. But Rea had set a medium term target of making an impact during the World Cup period.

“Safe to say it’s a dream come true,” says the man who describes himself as ‘just a country boy from Glarryford’.

“First and foremost just to get on the pitch with Matthew, just to make the parents proud basically. That’s what this week was about for me, the other stuff was an added bonus.”

The Ballymena club man was told from the start of the week that he would have a role to play against Leinster. The first person outside of the squad he called was the same person that took his man-of-the-match medal for safe-keeping.

“I rung my dad, because I knew he’d be proud,” Rea says with a brevity enforced by underlying emotion.

He took the rest of his week in his stride, until the occasion began to make itself clear in the hours before kick-off.

“It didn’t really kick in until around 3 o’clock (Saturday) when I got to the stadium.

“The first few days I was so worried about getting my roles down and not letting the team down first and foremost. It all paid off with the hard work I’d done at the start of the week and having Matthew there who helped me the whole way through the week, I was asking him questions.

Marcus Rea scores a try Marcus Rea gets over the line. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“He’s always been a great influence on my career, watching him and obviously being very proud of him as well as seeing what I can learn off him.

“He basically said: ‘just do your thing’. It was more the last 10 minutes asking him to help me out and help me get over the line.”

They’ve been working towards that goal together for a long time now.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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